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XFINITY

THREE TAKEAWAYS: Sparks Energy 300

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The second restrictor plate race of the season for the NASCAR XFINITY Series delivered the intensity and unpredictability that Talladega Superspeedway is known for.

From numerous multi-car crashes to a heart-pounding finish that came down to the final lap, Saturday afternoon featured pack racing at its best.

Stage Carnage

When the end of the stages neared, the level of aggression picked up. The two “big ones” unfolded with less than five laps remaining in each of the stages, collecting numerous series regulars who were vying for the championship points up for grabs.

William Byron, Daniel Hemric, and Ryan Reed all came into the race in the top-eight of the driver’s standings and were among those taken out in the accidents.

Carnage has been prevalent through first two plate races of the season. Through the intensity associated with the stages and the impact of less downforce on the cars, bumping in the draft has become treacherous and has caused many of the crashes.  

Ford Power

Race winner Aric Almirola and third-place finisher Joey Logano had two of the strongest cars in the field. They worked together in the draft for much of the event and led 29 of the 133 laps.

Logano was shuffled out of the front group numerous times but always recovered and returned to the front, attesting to the No. 22 Ford’s performance and his restrictor plate racing prowess.

Almirola’s No. 98 Ford seemed to be one of the few cars capable of challenging Logano, and he took advantage of this by taking the lead as Logano fell back late. This is the second consecutive year Almirola has captured a XFINITY Series plate race victory as he won last July at Daytona.

Staying Out of Trouble

In February at Daytona, four of JR Motorsports’ five entries were involved in crashes. The organization performed remarkably better on Saturday as only William Byron exited the race early following an accident.

Two of the team’s cars earned season-best results as Elliott Sadler came home second and Michael Annett placed seventh. Justin Allgaier finished eighth, and Kasey Kahne ended up 15th after a late-race penalty put him a lap down, concluding a much cleaner day for the JRM cars.

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Jason Schultz

Jason Schultz aspires to enter the public relations field of NASCAR. Schultz, 19, attends UNC Charlotte and is a communication studies major with a focus in public relations. In addition to contributing to POPULAR SPEED, Schultz produces podcasts for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Dirty Mo Radio. He also completed a semester as a social media intern at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Each year, he volunteers as the social media correspondent for Autism Delaware's Drive for Autism golf tournament featuring NASCAR personalities and the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover.